From shila pujan to bhoomi pujan: A journalist's experience of the Ayodha Ram temple movement
Photo by ANI

Movement for construction of Ram temple which began from the Palampur session of BJP in 1989 is now culminating into the groundbreaking ceremony at Ayodhya on Wednesday.

The groundwork was done by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad a year before L K Advani started his Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya on September 25, 1990. VHP workers had influenced the mindset of the villagers in Saurashtra too as "Shila Pujan" took place in each and every household. Villagers contributed a rupee to purify bricks for the Ram temple all thanks to the massive mass movement of VHP. This generated a mass hysteria among the people in Gujarat too.

I had covered the launch of the Yatra (in a matador converted into chariot) from Somnath as Times of India correspondent. After performing early puja rituals at the Somnath temple on the Seashore, L K Advani and his wife Ms Kamla Advani rode the chariot. Pramod Mahajan was the Saarthi for the entire route, while Narendra Modi was there up to Gujarat and Keshubhai Patel for Saurashtra leg.

Kirit Bhai Pathak, a former official of Saurashtra University still recalls "entire Rajkot had become Rammay".

The chariot passed through the NH 151, NH 27, and SH 26 covering Verawal, Jam Kandorana, Junagadh, Jetpur, Gondal, before it reached Rajkot. Advani stayed in Circuit House, where documents of the surrender of Junagadh state with India was signed between Menon and Bhutto's father, who was Dewan of Junagadh. Reporters coming from New Delhi and Mumbai were accommodated in Hotel galaxy and Hotel Samrat. Next morning, Advani gave formal interviews to some of the visiting reporters before leaving for Rajkot-Ahmedabad phase which passed through Kuvadva, Chotila, Limbdi, Surendranagar covering another 210 km.

Welcome arches full of local colorful Rabri embroidery Torans were put all over the route, people, particularly women were literally frenzied, offering aartis, putting flower petals and even coins on the Chariot. The entire route was river berating with Jai Ram slogans and it was for the first time slogan of Mandir Wahin Banayange was popularised and Advani at his roadside speeches talked of Mathura and Kashi on the agenda of the movement after Ayodhya.

The yatra which started at 10.30 am in Somnath temple on September 25, 1990 reaches its logical ends at Ayodhya where on August 5, 2020 at 12.30 Bhumipujan will be done. A great and vast distance between Shila Puja and Bhumipujan. 

For me, I was called to appear as a prosecution witness at Lucknow's special CBI court last year.

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